My heart beats to the rain splashing against my windows, reminiscent of the time when rain would mean our bodies writing poetry across the bedsheets, when the thunder deafened me of my urge to let go. Your breath would usher sweet nothings into my ears and leave chasms for your fingers to probe and explore. Rain is the brazing reminder of how easily your touch would fog my crude sensibilities, knocking my conscience off the tightrope, and into the void you created in me. You were something I never understood, or maybe I did, only when you were tracing your name across my naked flesh with your fingers, leaving pieces yourself on me like wet paint. Umbrellas had become a thing of the past when all we did was jump on puddles, unaware of an ocean that lay before us; an ocean we drowned in, or at least I did, groping desperately, clawing, grasping, my survival instincts so precariously tangled with your presence; so I let go and sank to the rock bottom while you so effortlessly made it ashore.
The day after you left it rained. I despised the very first drop that fell on my skin, like an unwanted intervention from above trying to rob my existence of the vague traces of yourself you left on me. Your smell, for instance. The kind that never made a big deal of itself, a beautiful concoction of everything you were – your morning coffee, your favourite shirt, the smell of the old dog-eared book you always had in your bag. I wish I could bottle it up though, your smell.
I remember how you loved the rain, and I, the sunshine. When we were caught unawares in sudden summer rain, when I was busy looking for a roof, you insisted we walk in it. You held my hand as we did, and watched me let my guard down for you. The first time we made love, the rain pattered against the glass pane, a prelude and encore to the music we wrote to each other’s bodies. You traced your fingers around my curves and crevices, hillsides and valleys, from my nape to my spine around my navel and waist… you sent electricity through my nerves. That night as the thunder roared outside, I wrote poetry to you. And many nights after that.
The day after you left it rained. I sat on the floor with all the poems I wrote for you and the letters unsent, strewn around me. I never let you leave you see, for you were very much there, in all the metaphors I caged you in, in my words and ink. Maybe I knew you would leave one day, in your habit of fleeing from whatever you lost yourself in, in your whimsical escapades. And in my habit of always being prepared, I prepared for your final disappearing act too, by not letting you disappear from the words I hold most dear to me.
The yellowed parchment has very efficiently caged the moments before you closed the door behind yourself. That was my final letter to you, the one I did send, but never got a reply to. The one which has bottled up my smell within it’s creases — the smell of cheap wine, for I had ensconced myself on the sill of a lively liquor bar one night. I never liked it, but I went there anyway hoping I’d see you there. I watched couples dancing with their arms around each other, basking in the wild promise of an unknown eternity. I watched young men trying to woo girls in sparkly dresses. I sat there and wrote to you all the things I wanted to say to you, but never could because I was never the risk-taker. I never told you that you were home. I never told you that you lighted fireworks in my heart every time you laughed like that. Or how my lips had become attuned to yours, so much so that they now feel bare and lifeless. I never told you how were the only thing I loved more than words. Do you know how much it hurts waking up alone? I guess you do, for I imprisoned that infinity in the letter for you to make meaning of.
The day you left, it rained too. That day, you put on your rain boots and opened your umbrella before closing the door behind yourself. I never understood why.
I wonder how unfair it is for moments to be ephemeral, to pass by us like trains whizzing past dainty stations, like a wind that caresses our skin and flesh but leaves no trace of it behind. I wonder how it would have been if we could somehow clench our fists and lock them in our fingers, freeze them and box them up in jars of wishful reminiscence, only to be able to open the lid someday when we are old and frail and let these moments waft into our senses and nourish our deprived sensibilities. I wish moments weren’t so transient all the time, I wish they weren’t just a whirlwind, a blur, but an elixir that can fill the chasms in the verity of our being. After all, life is but a mere patchwork of moments itself, some torn and worn out, and some vibrant in their existence, some dead and in fond remembrance, and some yet to be born.
I don’t believe in black-and-white love. The kind of love that just comes into being without much preamble, drives you all kinds of insane and leaves without a trace in your soul. Like a storm it keeps your senses in whirling delirium, and leads you to destruction. I have felt that kind of love before and all it led me to was disappointment- disappointment that I failed to hold on to it and it slipped out of my fingers like grains of sand, that I fell short of what was expected of me to keep the fire burning so majestically, that it had to end. I have come to believe in grey love, love that crawls under your skin slowly, the kind that makes no great deal out of itself but kindles hope in the darkness of your soul, keeps you warm in the ice-cold of your heart, ignites your spirit to run away from the shackles of your past. It comes with no wild promises of forever, no instruction manual, but runs through you like a wheel; never ending nor beginning, ever-spinning wheel. In the incessant interplay of vices and virtues within you, it keeps you sane and the only casualties that this love brings are the bits of naiveness that nestled inside you once, and leaves you not in ruins, but only stronger.
Somebody once told me to write about myself, and even though how seemingly commonplace that piece of advice was, it took me by surprise, mainly because writing about me, putting myself in the spotlight of my own poetry, had never really crossed my mind. I always thought one can never be the muse of his own art, but can wait instead, for someone else to come by and make a meaning of them that’s worth the ink or the paint. My poetry caged my emotions like circus lions, put up on show but never realized to their full power, my poetry was always for others to relate to, for others to gasp and awe at how beautifully I could speak THEIR mind (if I could, at all). It was only recently that I realized that in my mission to prove my poetry cathartic to others, I forgot about what they meant to me; on the same note, here’s a confession- I lie in my poetry a lot. Alcohol, for instance. Despite all that I write in the lines of ‘The liquor burns my throat like fireworks, lips lackluster from the liquor lullaby, waiting for the day when love won’t taste
like the last sip of whiskey and the flood of fire in my veins,’, the blatant truth is that, I HATE alcohol. Despite how I JUST romanticised the throat-burning, at the risk of sounding prudish or kiddish, lemme just say I never found any solace in liquor whatsoever. Maybe the acute bitterness is just an ‘acquired’ taste, and well… I haven’t acquired it yet. I do like the feeling of being drunk though, and how it shuts down the overtly efficient lying mechanism in the back of my head, lets my thoughts flow in an uncensored strain instead, lets me be the most undistilled and raw form of myself; however this whole romanticisation of something I do not like is solely because of what I said at first; the need to make sense to others before I can make sense to myself. I fail to segregate the two lists- of things which I love and the things which I ‘should love’, the things which make me ME and the things which make me the ‘chill girl-next-door’ (because evidently ‘me’ and ‘the chill girl-next-door’ aren’t exactly synonymous), I want to be the cool girl in the ripped jeans with a Heineken in hand going on and on about how excited she is about the Civil War movie, when in reality I am just the ordinary skirt-girl who’d choose a plate of tandoori chicken over booze any day and would probably rant about how much she loves Andrew Garfield in The Social Network, uh, not in Spiderman. I am the girl who isn’t exactly a fan of the fancy/poetic 3a.ms. because honestly I can barely stay awake that late; I am the girl who prefers a sunny day over the rain, because the bright sunshine makes me feel new, while the rain just catches me unawares without an umbrella and leaves me in mud-stains and usually with a bad cold.
The art of being oneself nowadays comes with the very art of taking a risk. When I say ‘leave it ya, you’ll not understand me’, as an excuse to why I do not write about myself, it’s not because I’m some abstract incomprehensible piece of art, but because writing about myself would mean taking a risk I’m not ready to take. It would mean undressing myself of socially-acceptable facades, it would mean opening my fallacies to unsolicited scrutiny, and segregating the things I love from the footnotes as to why I shouldn’t like them because aren’t really ‘cool’, it would mean baring the stamps of my ex-lovers on my skin only to be greeted with either sympathy or salted wounds; when I say you won’t understand me, it is not about you but about me. And maybe I will write about myself one day, when the very fallacies and stamps and scars become my muse and something worthy of ink; a piece of art, a piece of me which people can gasp and gaze at, and say, ‘it’s beautiful.’
- It will be okay. Even if you flunked your exam, or got left at the altar, even if rock bottom feels like home..things will get better. All you need is the mere belief that they will..and they will, really. And darling, slicing your wrists off and seeing your life bleed out of you will not make things better. Throw your blades and pills away, and walk and out and smell the sunshine. Breathe. It’ll be okay.
- Be selfish. Love yourself unconditionally and without recourse. Love yourself more than you’ve loved anyone or anything before, more than what you are even capable of loving so forth. Love yourself in moments you wish someone else would, love yourself in moments when you’ve been drained of all the love you could possibly give away. Have a whispered conversation with the darkest corners of your soul, just like you have with the sunlit ones- and embrace them.
- Never, ever undermine the healing powers of chocolate. Or anything that keeps your stomach happy, be it chicken soup or a crème brûlée. Cooking is a life skill, make sure you have mastered it well enough to make yourself that dish your Mom made for you when you cried yourself to sleep or the dish you crave for every time you step into your favorite restaurant. Being able to nourish oneself is one of the greatest forms of independence.
- Words are sacred. Words are what can build bridges..or burn them. Words are not meant to be thrown around in relentless carelessness, words are meant to be wrapped in righteous candor and handled with care. Mean what you say, or don’t say it at all.
- Read. Wisdom is hidden in the unlikeliest of places..but more often than not within words sketched across the yellowed pages of a book. Reading is a virtue, and for all your darkest times, even the most fictional of characters can light the way.
- Perfection is a mirage. And the only way you can catch hold of it.. is by letting it go. You might be tempted to strive for what others want of you. But here’s a secret:
they don’t matter. You do, and your happiness does. Strive for what you want of yourself. You’ll stumble and fall on your face while you do..but never stop believing you’re enough and you’ll get there.
- We humans have mastered the art of pretense really really well, so make sure the people who you believe will be by you till the end of time, are really the people you think them to be. You’ll get stabbed, hard, in the back, maybe more than once and you’ll bleed dry. And when you’ll realize Superman isn’t coming, you’ll put on that damn cape yourself. And, no, revenge is not the answer. It is a sinful pleasure alright, but it will stand on your cape and not let you fly until you push it off the cliff. Hold close to yourself the people who have been with you when you had not even an ounce left of yourself to offer them. They are for you to call your own.
- Laughter can be the solution to everything, if you let it. Okay, maybe not Donald Trump. But it can be the solution to your period cramps or fits of sheer anxiety or stress- so never undermine the magic of some good stand-up comedies or comic strips that can light up your day in an instant.
- Everyone has a true calling. And believe me when I say everyone. Find it and sketch out a blueprint for it. Grope for it even in darkness and moments of despair, and it’ll come to you. It can be anything- from solving math problems, taking pictures to writing short stories, playing an instrument, or even having a knack for something not too conventional. Work at it and keep working at it until it becomes a part of your identity. Not only can you fall back on it every time you hit the slump, it can actually hold the power to make everything else fall in place.
- Keep yourself happy. Treat yourself the way you’d want others to treat you. Practise kindness with yourself and others, little steps can go a long way. This world can make it hard for you to stay happy but the best way to punch it back is by being that ray of sunshine. Life is an ephemeral beauty, make sure you catch it before it slips away.
I didn’t quite relate myself to the word or its connotations, until recently when I sat down to contemplate my prospects of leaving home for studies. It is a known law of the universe that you are capable of realizing the value of something you have been served on a plate for a long time only when it is being taken away from you. Bengal, to me, is not just a state but a state of mind. A color palate strewn with the red smear of our vibrant history, with the hues of our art and culture and the marks left behind by those who make Bengal what it is today. Bengal is the magnificence of the Northern mountains and the blue of the Southern seas, it is the rivers that cascade down the lush meadows, it is the azure of the autumn sky… It is the debate of the morning-walkers in a tea-stall, it is in the adda of the college-goers in Coffee House. Bengal is the celebration of colors in spring, and the celebration of the Goddess in autumn. It is the cacophony of College Street and the buzz of Sector V. It is the dancing Santalis of the red soils and the love birds strolling by the Ganga.
My first tryst with Bengali culture was when I was four. It was when my mother used to try and make me commit to memory the quintessential Bangla essay on Durga Pujo, that I finally put the elements of Bengali culture in sharp focus in the realms of my own vision. I was left awed. Durga Pujo was not only a celebration of the people, but also as if of Mother Nature. Having been raised in 21st century urban surroundings pretty much since my birth, Durga Pujo appeared to me as the sole and predominant element of Bengali culture. It is a wonderful concoction of tradition, art, spirituality, music, food and festivity. It was a grand fusion of people hailing from all classes and religions and races and backgrounds.
But as soon as I was done with my first Durga Pujo, I was introduced to Diwali- the celebration of light. And I observed in awe as the Bengalis along with the ‘non-Bengalis’ celebrated it with fervor. The festival fever didn’t end just then. Soon enough came December, and Bengal joined the rest of the world as they celebrated Christmas. Spring was heralded with the popular festival of Dol, when the young and old would smear color on each other as an expression of love. The warm and inclusive nature of the ever enthusiastic Bengali rendered me fascinated.
Growing up eventually exposed me to the other facets of the diverse Bangali culture. Say for instance, cinema. Be it a commercial film like Paglu or a National award winning film like Nirbashito, the movie-buff Bengali shall ensure Tollywood remains a force to be reckoned with. Literature too is an inseparable part of the Bengali soul, Thakuma’r Jhuli and Khirer Putul leaving their eternal essence in our childhood.Tagore would then hold our hand and guide us through the agonies of adolescence and adulthood- his words and tunes resonating with our hearts. And the quintessential Bengali detectives in the form of Feluda, Byomkesh Bakshi and TeniDa shall challenge us to a game of intellect as they solve crime after crime. For those who embrace literature like their clandestine paramour even later in their lives, there shall always be Srijato, Nabanita Dev Sen, Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay et al as their refuge. And for those who can’t imagine their lives without the gramophone or iPod, maestros ranging from the likes of Kishore Kumar and Manna Dey to today’s Shreya Ghoshal and Lagnajita Chakraborti, genres ranging from Rabindrasangeet, Nazrulgeeti and Atulprasadi to the styles of Kabir Suman, Anupam Roy and Jeet Ganguly, our culture wonderfully caters to the music-loving Bengali. To me the most important aspect of the Bangali culture however, would be the food, not just for its gustatory brilliance but for the sentiment that all Bengalis share with it, especially with their ‘Ma’er haat’er ranna’ (food cooked by one’s mother). To the Bengali, ‘Ma’er haat’er ranna’ is a matter of immense pride, as if like a legacy of their family name or an exclusive cuisine characteristic of their household. This pride would originate mostly from the debate over whose tiffin is more delicious, as the Bengali woman would whip up delicacies to keep their children nourished in school. The celebration of ‘Ma’er haat’er ranna’ would extend to the grand feasts in family gatherings and even the occasional ‘mangsho bhaat’ on Sundays. And last but not the least is the quintessential Bengali enthusiasm of sports especially in football and cricket. If one takes an evening stroll through the lanes and by-lanes of any locality s/he would invariably encounter a fervent group of boys immersed in their game of gully cricket or football- come rain, come storm. And who can forget our very favourite Dada– Sourav Ganguly- when one speaks of sports in Bengal? A stark example of the fervor with which Bengalis celebrate sports would be the famous IPL match held in Eden, between the city team Kolkata Knight Riders and Dada’s team Pune Warriors. Almost every TV set was tuned in to the match, as Bengalis passionately voiced their support for the city or for Dada or just in celebration of the sport.
While writing this I realized what a minuscule part of the Bengali culture I have truly been able to absorb and make my own, and how much was left to discover and explore. No one can be quite done with Bengal and what it has to offer, which would be enough to suffice a lifetime. It remains deep in our core like an inextinguishable flame, molding us into the global citizens of tomorrow. It remains in us like a teardrop of a probashi Bangali (non-residential Bengali) when he Skypes with his mother from across the seven seas and the delight of a little child when he hears the fascinating tales of Apu and Durga from his grandfather.It is in everything that makes us want to come home even when we leave it behind. Bengal is truly one of a kind.
He cheated on me twice. The first time he did, I decided to walk the higher path to forgiveness, be the greater being. I was barely sixteen, and perpetually in love with the idea of being in love. So I did. I forgave him, gave him room for redemption.
Until one day I chanced upon his promiscuity again.
What befell me was not hurt, nor anger. It was self-loathe. Self-loathe that hit me in recurring cycles. Loathed myself for not having been able to keep him intrigued in me. Played every redundant memory in my head over and over again. Desperate attempts made to see where I went wrong. A young girl of sixteen too busy finding faults in herself to realize the fault wasn’t hers.
I never cried. My days were composed of drowning myself in work. And sleep. Of leaving myself no opportunity to think about him or what was left of us. I shut myself in my own dark prison lest I chance upon him somehow. Poignant reminders remained cloistered in the obscure corners of my mind. Survival became the bare minimum and my will to live my life took a backseat, lest I be ravaged by my past somehow.
One day, as if like an impetuous ray of sunshine after the rain, my will to live dawned on me. I realized I didn’t want to be unhappy anymore. Didn’t want to look myself in the mirror to see my shirt stained with wine, ashtray brimming with the ashes that my joy had turned into. I didn’t want to inflict myself with pain anymore, building impenetrable walls and seeking solace in my bruises.
I wanted to live.
And as if in sudden divine intervention, I found myself bestowed with all the strength I could muster within me, all in the span of a single moment. I realized I was ready to spring back in full force.
And so I did. What followed was a chain reaction of epiphanies. A transformation. A sea change of beliefs and principles, an unforeseen advent of wisdom and courage.
That you do not need a ‘better half’ to validate your worth. That there is more to life than chasing love. That it’s important to love oneself with fervency and unwavering faith. That walls can be nice too, that filtering people through them is a necessity. Not everyone deserves to explore the nook and crannies of your soul, not everyone deserves access to the secret road map through the trail of your scars. Not everyone deserves to trace their fingers through your body and derive their selfish pleasure from the electricity of your touch, with no returns.
I don’t know who you are.
But if you love someone,
and he says you are a mess,
he doesn’t want to clean up,
pick yourself up
piece by piece,
day by day,
and keep yourself together,
because you are worth your love
and he is not.
It’s strange how I know so little about myself. I do not refer to the petty bits like what my favorite color is and which kind of books I love the most. A long seventeen years is apparently not enough to figure myself out. Mostly because I contradict myself when faced with such questions. A consistent love towards my comfort zone at war with the urge to step out of it. A love for stability paired with the need for thrill and the unpredictable. Confidence juxtaposed with a crippling need for validation. Narcissistic yet unsure of my worth. Too sensitive, too cold-hearted. Too social, too aloof. Kind and vindictive. I’m at war with myself most of the time, trying to tick just one of the boxes for each question I’m faced with. I do not know if everyone has multiple facets of themselves and if it’s natural to be such a confused mess all the time.
But I know for sure that like most questions which have no answer, this too, disturbs me. So my urge to find reason in my paradoxes has led me to find a probable answer. Maybe it is in fact us ourselves who switch between our facets. We are nothing but puppets in the hands of time. I think when life goes according to our deliberate and planned way, we remain assured of our abilities and that is when the adventurous and exuberant side of us is manifested. When our plans are derailed and we find ourselves crippled in the hands of unprecedented circumstances, the monsters in us wake up and cripple us further. We retract into our shells when faced with situations we are unsure or scared to fight.
Now that I sketchily answered my own question, I find myself facing another one.
Does the existence of multiple sides of our being threaten the authenticity of either of them?
I’m an optimist (to the point of wishful thinking sometimes), so I choose to believe it doesn’t. Each side of us is as raw and real as the other. The person that we are when life favors us is every bit real when it doesn’t. Of course, the personas I am speaking are the ones that truly exist to ourselves, not what we show we to the world. That’s a conversation for another time.
Till next time.